Songs in the key of life

I got to do something I almost never get to do last night. I was fortunate enough to play in a 12 piece big band ( I’m not sure if 12 constitutes ‘big’ but fuck it). It was in a field in Kent with 11 people only 1 of whom I’d met before. We had free food and a free bar and for the most part the sun was shining. As I said I don’t get to play with this many musicians on a gig that often but when I do I absolutely love it. As a guitarist it’s a joy not to be told to cover: the brass parts, the backing vocals, piano parts, string lines whilst at the same time fending off some pissed bloke who wants to get up and play Wonderwall with us.

festivalgirl

I want to say how much fun it was and how much I enjoyed it. But that doesn’t do it justice. The truth is; it was pant wettingly, ball bouncingly, head bangin riot, arse shakingly good fun. It was like having your arse tickled with a feather. We grooved, we rocked, we jazzed and there was even a rap. Any mistakes were quickly picked up or were brushed under the rug, no one noticed because we were cooking. There were no egos and no prima donnas. We were all there for the collective good. Making the songs sound great and making sure everyone left happy and a little sad that it was over.

With 12 in the band it meant that we all had to work less. That’s right, LESS. I didn’t have to worry about anything other than the guitar parts, as there was a piano and 3 part horn section. I didn’t have to worry about filling out the space. I just concentrated on sitting in the groove. The same also applied to the piano player. With 4 vocalists I didn’t have to worry about backing vocals, plus the singers as individuals didn’t have to worry about their voices getting tired. With a percussionist along for the ride this freed the drummer up to sit back and hold the groove down, which he did impeccably. The icing on the proverbial cake…trombone, sax and trumpet. Sprinkling musical magic everywhere we went.

It was a beautiful evening. 12 people coming together, unrehearsed, for the common good. We had jazz musicians who had studied in some of London’s finest schools playing next to musicians who couldn’t read a lick of music and who referred to musical parts as ‘the bit that goes doo de dee da da bat bat bum’. We had players that had toured the world with big name artists trading licks with people who still practice with the remnants of their children’s breakfast on their unwashed tee shirt. We were of different backgrounds. We were of different sexual orientation. But we were there playing for the song, not the individual. It is a testament to what can be achieved when like minded, focused and dedicated  people come together with a single goal in mind. And it was fantastic.  It’s a shame large factions of the world don’t adopt these principles. We have psychotic sociopaths vying for power and control at the expense of the rest of us. Carving us up into fractions, continuously pointing out our differences and forcing us to focus on our differences rather than our similarities. As part of my daily recovery from addiction, I meditate. It’s not something I profess to doing well or daily for that matter. But when I do I try to picture myself sitting crossed legged on the Moon, looking back at the earth. Watching it spin so elegantly. Gazing at the vast oceans. Watching the thunder storms in South America, the deserts of North Africa and the seemingly invariable rain in the U.K. One thing I don’t see…Borders. Flags. Countries divided by religion or race. Cities divided by sports team. Towns divided by popular talent shows. Because those divisions only exist if we let them. We and we alone have the power to eradicate them. Does that mean we should be held accountable?

I often get tarnished with ‘Left wing dreamer’ brush. I have a belief that the world could be a better place if we all put our differences aside and worked together for the common good. The trouble is we all have a different opinion of what ‘Good’ is. It’s subjective. I get tired of writing it; us coming together. I want to find something less trite, something more inspiring….but when it boils down to it that phrase sums up what I’d like to see. Less murder, less poverty, less war, more education, more love. And that’s good

Maybe you think I am a dreamer. Maybe you think that we can’t come together. Maybe you think that our division runs too deep and we will forever be a race split. But it’s out there, it is possible, I’ve seen it. It happened to me last night.

 

Advertisements

And we’re back!

So after what seems like an age I finally have my laptop back. It’s been away getting a new lease of life. I can’t remember the last blog I wrote and it feels like a lifetime ago since I put fingers to keys.

I’m sat writing this in a very trendy bar in Rochester just a few hours before a gig. Hopefully I can finish what I want to say before the hoards of Saturday night revelers file in, stinking of lynx and hair gel and looking for a good time.

What do I want to say? The truth is there are so many topics I want to cover but I can’t untangle the mess and matter of my brain and get them out in a concise and articulate way.

I feel a huge weight on my heart. I feel that we as a people are pulling so hard in opposite directions that we’ll never get to rise to the capacity that we are so capable of attaining. There is one topic in particular that I must get off my chest.

I had a recent debate with a friend on the subject of abortion. Abortion is one of those subjects that both sides of the argument are equally valid and both sides require listening to. I’m of the opinion that abortion is a decision that should be made by the parties involved. I’m pro choice as our trans Atlantic cousins choose to pigeon hole. But it’s a grey area as I do not think abortion should be used as a form of contraception. A decision of this magnitude must not be taken lightly or idly. My friend, to protect is identity we’ll call him David, is pro life and a devout Catholic. After a few back and forths stating our positions I put a classic hypothetical to him:

If a child of 13 or 14 fell pregnant after non-consensual intercourse with her father and she wanted to abort the baby would that be ok?

His answer. No.

His reason. God, the father, is a creator. By aborting the baby you are stifling his creations.  He also said that it was his will that this child should fall pregnant.

After picking my jaw up off the floor I asked; should a child have to go through not only the pain and agony of child birth (Remembering that her body is not yet fully developed and would more than likely damage her internally) but being raped by her father? Would a god that loved us let a child go through all that suffering?

He said “Sometimes suffering is good for the soul”

Hear-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil

In my 33 years of floating through space on this green and blue rock I have never ever heard anyone say anything as wicked and evil and further more actually believe that what he was saying was justifiable. His attitude towards the rape, torture and suffering of children was justified because it’s God’s will.

This kind of attitude towards child suffering should be reserved only for the psychotic and the insane. Not the educated, honest and rational thinking members of society. And it certainly shouldn’t be coming from the mouths of people who claim to have a moral superior high ground, something that is apparently denied to me.

I had this debate about 2 months ago and it’s still burning up inside me. I still cannot believe that anyone would put the welfare of a child second to the will of a God that may or may not exist. I can only assume that the message of Jesus has somewhat been lost on David and he’s now more concerned with the teachings of the church, two teachings which I believe massively contradict each other.

I don’t have a religious bone in my body. I don’t think God exists and I don’t think Jesus did either, at least not in the form that Christians do. Religion seems to give people the excuse to behave poorly. Who, but the religious would picket the funerals of dead soldiers? Who, but the religious would mutilate the genitals of new born baby? Who, but the religious would fly planes into buildings and who, but the religious would promote the idea amongst Africans that condoms increase the risk contracting aids?

Now I would never assert that all religious people support any of the ideas that I have just stated. My point is that people will commit the most atrocious acts if they believe they have God on their side. The physicist Steven Weinberg summed it up better than me in just a few words, if not a little crude.

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion

 

The Down’s Delusion

As I read Richard Dawkins apology for his remarks regarding Down’s syndrome/Abortion I could hear a sharp intake of breath through gritted teeth from the Down’s Syndrome community. I could then feel the eyes…. waiting for my (re)action.

I have been a great admirer of Prof. Dawkins for a few years now and It was with great sadness that I read his apology letter.

Richard-Dawkins-007

My wife and I have a two year old daughter, Chiara, with Down’s. During the pregnancy we didn’t know anything of her condition but my wife and I always said that if we found out that either of our children had Down’s (Or any other condition) we wouldn’t opt for an abortion. I could tell you that having a child with Down’s is no different or how much joy she brings to us. I could go on for hours about how much we love her and the wonderful  dynamic she has added to our family. While all of the above are true and self evident I feel they miss the point slightly.

Prof. Dawkins remarked that “if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare”

While I can understand Prof. Dawkins views I certainly do not agree with them.

Is it immoral to purposely give birth to a child with Down’s citing the child’s welfare as your reason? I would have to say no. You could go one further and ask…

Is it immoral to give birth to a child citing the child’s welfare as your reason? After all any child could grow up and be diagnosed with a range of conditions later in life. Autism, Multiple sclerosis, asthma, etc. Of course the answer is no. Having children is a risk, you don’t know what the future will bring.

With the advancement of medical science foetus’ can be diagnosed with a variety of conditions as well as being put in a high risk category for other conditions. Would someone opt for abortion for the latter? Sadly I feel some would. Termination before diagnosis. Execution before trial. Sounds very totalitarian doesn’t it? Something I know Prof. Dawkins is fervidly against.

Since having Chiara I can say that we are happy, as is she, and there is very little in the way of suffering. Except when she’s hungry and she turns into a right little moo cow. Yes I will have to care for her until the day I die… But the same applies to her sister and any future little Loves that may pop along for the ride. Parenting is job that’s 365 days a year, very few breaks, long hours and it lasts until the day you die… and the pay is shit! The parameters have shifted only slightly with extra Doctors appointments, physiotherapy and numerous classes. As for what happens to her after we’re gone… I guess we’ll have to just wait and see what life throws at her. But she will grow up in a stable, happy and loving environment and she will be given every opportunity to live an independent life.

And finally Prof. Dawkins I consider you a champion of the secular movement. Helping society to shed the cloak of religious dogma and bring the truly wonderful world of science and nature to the people. Bringing a shining light to the darkness. I truly hope that one day I can do the same for you… You’re welcome for tea anytime.

 

 

Thank god!

A friend of mine was sadly diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago. He’s in his mid 20’s, is married and he and his wife have a son. I have only met him once when he and his band toured the UK, from America, a few years ago and I played on the same night as them. We shared a few drinks after the show and chatted about cultural differences, namely that it’s socially acceptable to start drinking in the early afternoon in the UK. I kept in touch with the band via Facebook and kept up with their goings on.

It’s always a shock to hear that someone so young is hit with cancer. But after a year of treatments and therapies he has been given the all clear which is absolutely wonderful news. Not only has the disease been kicked squarely in the bollocks but he and his wife and son will enjoy many more happy years together. Which is the most important thing.

But there was something that rubbed me the wrong way, it’s only a minor niggle but it’s a niggle none the less. I’ve written the next sentence a dozen times and there is no way of writing it without me sounding like a sanctimonious arse hole, so here it is.

After the news that he was given the all clear his Facebook wall lit up with comments of well wishing and congratulations. The vast majority praising God for his ultimate wisdom, compassion and grace. “God is good” seemed to be the favourite. This is where the niggle comes in, and there is more that one I’m afraid to say.

From my understanding of the world I would have to say that our medical advancements over the last 100 years are our greatest achievements. Our adventures into space are truly amazing and our expeditions to bottom of the sea are staggering, but they were borne from curiosity rather than necessity. We have eradicated small pox, cornered polio and walked cancer to the edge of the plank. All this was achieved from countless medical professionals working diligently into the long good night. Before them human beings succumbed to diseases and viruses, rotting teeth and gangrene. Even a splinter or the common cold could turn deadly.

So it does upset me when an unproven, unverifiable celestial deity gets all the credit for one man’s victorious cancer battle. Not one mention to the hard working, diligent team of doctors, nurses and therapists. Because let’s face it, without them it could have been a very different outcome. But I must reiterate that the most important thing is one man is cancer free.

Every few months we hear stories of parents denying their children of medical care, opting instead for prayer and trusting the life of their child in the hands of the lord. More often that not, tragically the child dies, the parents are put on trial and subsequently go to jail. So my point is this. Maybe, just maybe, your prayers were answered. The lord provided you with a cure, a helping hand and a miraculous recovery. But instead of white light coming from the heavens or bearded man walking on water and doing tricks with wine you got a mid 30’s woman with a PhD from the university of wherever, armed with a vast knowledge of ‘whatever it is you are suffering from’. I admit that these kind of prophecies don’t look as good as your Jesus fellow, but maybe these people are the answers to your prayers and they deserve the recognition, they deserve the praise and they deserve all the thanks.

I said there was more than one niggle and here it is…if God cured you of your ailments then surely it stands to reason that God gave you those ailments in the first place. Why? To make you a stronger person? To make you thankful for the life you have? What about the people who spend their day getting high on PCP and thieving from good, honest, hard working people, why aren’t they struck down with cancer? What about the numerous people who molest, torture and rape children in every country on the planet and yet somehow manage to evade the wrath of god? What about the people who strive to be good and value life and yet still fall prey to Cancer? There are two answers.

1. God can intervene, but he decides not to. Which makes him some kind of misanthropist 

2. God doesn’t have the power to intervene, which doesn’t make him omnipotent and therefore no more special than the turd that I just flushed down the toilet.

The power of prayer has also undergone scientific scrutiny with groups of hospital patients. Not surprisingly the tests conclude that people who were prayed for didn’t recover any quicker than the people that were not prayed for. To me it is painfully obvious why.

The truth is, is that there is no God. Never was, not one….ever. But I must reiterate that the most important fact is that a man is cancer free, a woman has her husband in good health and a son has a strong father.